Expect the worst, end up impressed
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 22 January, 2015 - The only reason I usually think about China is because I want to go and see the Great Wall of China since it’s one of the modern seven wonders of the world and on my bucket list. I did not expect to ever surf there so when I found out late last year that there was an event there for the Women I had no idea what to expect.
Fellow surfer, friend and traveling buddy Codie Klein had been there once before telling me she didn’t like it, had the hardest bed in the world and all examples under the sun to give me a fairly bad image in my head of what Hainan Island, China was going to be like. I expected the worst. Funny thing is, when you expect the worst, you usually end up impressed and this is exactly what happened to me.
I’ve traveled the world for the last several years but this was a new Country for me in awhile so I was definitely a little on edge. It didn’t start well with bad plane turbulence, so bad someone spewed in the aisle, all I could think of was the recent planes that have been going down and missing. I went for my post-landing pee in the airport toilets only to find they were holes in the ground that you had to squat over, I’m far from a princess, it was just different to what I’m used to and made me appreciate how hard it might be for guys to aim.
Arriving late at night, we were greeted by the contest helpers with minimal english. I think we were the only blondes in the whole airport so we got a lot of looks, although the big board bags don’t help with that either. I had flown into chaos with people pushing, car honking and going in every direction they think their car will fit through.
Paige finishes runner up to Mahina Maeda © WSL/Will H-S
We decided to stay at the Sheraton since we didn’t want concrete for beds so waking up the next day was a real pleasure. I would describe the beach front and coastline similar to Mexico or Bali, very tropical with white sand, lush green hills and lots of palm trees. You could easily relax and holiday here.
There were seven of us that morning that wanted to check the break out where the contest was going to be and since the shuttles weren’t working yet, we tried ordering a taxi van and/or bus to fit us all in plus our boards. Communication became quite an issue at times but I feel like when you see seven people and 10 surfboards that your common sense should kick in and realize you’re going to need a big vehicle. One hour later after a lot of broken english and sign language and promises of “Yes, Yes big taxi van” we were presented with two small standard taxi cars.
Being competitive surfer girls we don’t like to give up so adapted to the situation, put the front seat down and put all the boards on one side and sat on each other on the other side. It was worth the one hundred dollar short, squished taxi ride when we rocked up to a perfect 3-4ft left hand point break with no one out. It really looked like somewhere in Indonesia. We only got to surf this break but it was pretty consistent for the whole week, I would definitely come back here for a surf holiday especially since I heard there were some other good reef breaks around the area too.
I hate to say that for the week we ended up getting in a routine and stayed in our little bubble of either the Sheraton or the comp site. We were all suss about the food so ate most meals at the Sheraton which consisted of two sides of roasted vegetables sometimes mixing it up by getting them steamed and a veggie soup or green beans as an entree. A side of potato hot chips with tomato sauce to share was a big treat for us every second night. I heard the food was dodgy so I bought muesli and protein powder with me. I ended up losing weight and don’t want to see steamed vegetables for a long time. For snacks we walked outside our bubble to the local little supermarket and discovered spicy or garlic dried peas. They sound plain and average but we got so obsessed with them that we had to buy a packet or 10 to take back home with us.
QS women sightseeing © WSL/Will H-S
I really think it’s just a different way of life over there with manners and how you act in public. Standing in the supermarket minding my own business a lady literally pushed me in the back to make me move out of the way so she could sweep the floor. At home I’m sure most people would say ‘excuse me’ or wait till I moved. Walking down the corridors of the hotel it’s like playing chicken with them and we always seemed to be the chickens. It’s also a common occurrence to hear someone make that lovely ‘hoooick’ sound with their phlegm in public or spit on the grass, in the bins and even sitting next to you on the plane into the sick bags. When do you ever need to spit that badly?!
Oh yeah and then there was the surfing competition. The waves were mainly 2-3ft the whole time and super hackable and fun. Every time I got out there I was pretty astir and had to make sure I didn’t over do it with excitement. It really was one of, if not, the best waves we have had on the World Qualifying Series in years. With priority in every heat including four women heats, it really does eliminate the hassling factor a lot and comes down purely to who chooses the best waves and who surfs the best which is what competitive surfing should be all about.
Last year I got knocked off the top World Tour so it was a bit of a wake up call and a good kick in the you know what. Over Christmas and New Years I was trying out lots of different boards, working with my shaper Wayne McKewen at MtWoodgee on the Gold Coast to refine my boards and try to find the perfect one for me. To you, my boards might all look the same but it really is amazing how such subtle changes of dimensions and placement of foam can make all the difference from a bad board to a magic carpet.
This latest batch from Wayne really made a difference to my surfing, not only could I feel it but other people could see it, giving me comments that I hadn’t heard in years so to top that off with a second place finish, it really gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year. It’s still early stages but I’m pretty happy to start the year like that.
Riyue Bay © WSL/Will H-S
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the Great Wall of China this year round but I really did like the place and will definitely go back whether there is another comp there or not. However my good friend Codie wanted to get the hell out of there before we even got there so we booked our flights on the last day of the waiting period taking the risk and hoping that the contest would be finished before that last day. Making the final made me miss the shuttle to the airport so Codie organized a taxi for me costing AU$125 for an hour and a half drive that ended up taking only an hour because I told the driver to hurry.
Zig-zagging and honking through traffic and even using the emergency lane on the highway that wasn’t really a lane he got me there on time, it was one of the craziest rides I’ve ever had. Straight from the beach to the airport, with the second place not sinking in, I was a complete hopeless mess and very lucky that I had several Australian girls helping me make the flight.
Two of them in one line, two in another, four taking my fins out and packing my bags, I felt like royalty and like I was on the Amazing Race. I wouldn’t of made my flight without them and I definitely wouldn’t of had as much fun without them. Aussies being Aussies they like to shorten or change words so “thank you” in Chinese is xièxiè (pronounced She-sheah) but the girls also thought it sounded like “Shit Yeah”. So if you wondered if I would go back, if I had a good time or if you would like it, I’d say “shit yeah” too :)